If I could give one piece of advice to Democrats in the House, it would be to stop worrying about what Republicans like Kevin McCarthy, Marjorie Taylor-Greene, Matt Gaetz, etc., are saying about their agenda — up to and including righteous efforts to investigate the Capitol riot. As the House voted Wednesday on a resolution to establish a Jan. 6 committee, the opinion of provocateurs like Gaetz should have been the least of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s concerns.
“What if Democrats label our investigation a partisan stunt?” is a question Republican lawmakers have never asked themselves.
“What if Democrats label our investigation a partisan stunt?” is a question Republican lawmakers have never asked themselves when deciding whether to pursue a congressional investigation.
They didn’t ask this when they labeled Barack Obama “one of the most corrupt presidents in modern times” — without a shred of evidence to support such a bombastic statement. Nor did it seem top of mind before they held then-Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress — a historic first for a sitting Cabinet official. Republicans didn’t worry about partisanship before forming the House Select Committee on Benghazi in an effort to torpedo Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.
The open secret is that Republicans spend little to no time worrying about what their Democratic colleagues will say or think about them. There is no existential angst here — only action, and an effective propaganda network via news sites like Fox and OAN that can render whatever Democrats have to say about them meaningless.
Democrats, on the other hand, seem to spend an inordinate amount of time worrying about what Republicans will say or do. Take this line from a Politico piece about Pelosi’s decision to create a select committee to investigate the events of Jan. 6. “Some Democrats fear Republicans could appoint hard-line members like Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., to the panel who could inflame tensions about the attack,” wrote Nicholas Wu and Sarah Ferris.
Reports surfaced that the speaker was even considering using one of the Democrats’ eight designated spots for the committee to appoint a Republican, a move that some think would make it more difficult for Republicans to attack the committee’s work as partisan.
Spoiler alert: Republicans are going to attack the committee’s work as a “partisan witch-hunt” no matter who is appointed.
The illusion that Republicans could be equal and willing partners in the pursuit of justice died on the day that 147 of them voted against certifying a free and fair election, just hours after the attack on the United States Capitol. For anyone suffering from an acute case of short-term memory loss, Republicans then torpedoed a bipartisan 9/11-style commission to investigate the insurrection in May.
The notion of selecting one of the few Republicans who actually believe in choosing country over party to join the committee isn’t necessarily a bad one. But if that person isn’t willing to subpoena Kevin McCarthy or other fellow Republicans, the appointment is worse than meaningless.
Republicans are going to make their noise. They may even appoint members to the select committee who characterized the Jan. 6 attack as akin to a “normal tourist visit.” Let them. The tried and true soundbites will show up on Fox News regardless.
Instead of trying to prevent the inevitable, do the work. Get depositions and testimony from people we haven’t heard from yet.
Instead of trying to prevent the inevitable, do the work. Get depositions and testimony from people we haven’t heard from yet. Get every single piece of paper that exists from the events leading up to Jan. 6 from every agency and department that was involved. Put heroes like D.C. Metro Police Officer Michael Fanone front-and-center at the panel’s first hearing and dare Republicans to deny what happened on that violent day. Simply put, call the GOP’s bluff.
Throughout the last 10 years, Republicans have conditioned themselves to believe that Democrats operate from a place of fear; that they do things reluctantly (see Trump’s first impeachment) and half-heartedly; that they don’t really commit to a course of action. And many Republicans see this hesitancy as weakness.
Democrats have to turn the tables this time. This time, it’s Republicans who should be made to face the consequences for their words and for their actions. The GOP spin machine has been working overtime to launder the Capitol riot messaging, but there are plenty of witnesses who would be glad to share their stories in front of lawmakers — and cameras.
In this case, partisan isn’t a bad word. Only one political party was agitating for the violent overthrow of our democracy, and it was the Republican Party. The arsonists who set the fire can’t be expected to help investigate it impartially. And to this point, they’ve mostly gotten away with it. Democrats need to stop worrying about hurting GOP feelings and start worrying about what will happen if Republicans believe they can get away with pretty much anything.